“It wasn’t too long ago that people would assume you had to trade performance for environmental sensitivity when it came to products in your home,” shares Normandy Designer Laura Barber. “Fortunately, those days are behind us. Smart usage of natural resources has become almost standard, letting style and function return to the center stage in all areas of the home.”
Let’s start by taking a look at water usage. The WaterSense label is a distinction made by the EPA that indicates a fixture meets the required flow rates of water. “WaterSense fixtures are required by many towns and villages, and the good news is that manufacturers have virtually perfected the use of more modest levels of water without consequence,” notes Laura. Gone are the days of the low-flow toilets that took multiple flushes to get the job done. Today’s toilets use a fraction of the water that their predecessors did, and often do the job even better.
Shower heads are another place that people are reluctant to opt for a lower water usage option, but the plumbing manufacturers have a few tricks up their sleeves. “Effectively they’ve found a way to inject air into the spray to give you the same forceful shower experience you’re looking for, but using a lot less water,” notes Laura. “You can even find most WaterSense fixtures in modern and traditional styles, so you don’t even have to compromise on the look of your bathroom to keep your water usage in check.”
It’s even easier to make smart choices for the planet in the kitchen. “Combination trash and recycling pull-outs are basically standard offerings from cabinet manufacturers these days,” shares Laura. “For people who are really savvy about limiting their environmental impact, a built-in compost container in the kitchen makes it simple to segment your compostable scraps from your normal trash so that you can put them in your outdoor compost bin later.”
WaterSense fixtures are exceptionally common in kitchen faucets as well. “You can find almost any style or arrangement of faucet that will meet the WaterSense criteria,” says Laura. “If you recall, most of the towns these days require you to use WaterSense fixtures whenever possible, so the manufacturers have done a great job of giving you an amazing number of options and styles to choose from that still meet the water usage criteria.”
When it comes to electricity consumption there are some exciting trends that are becoming more mainstream. “Induction cooktops, which have long been used in Europe, are starting to become much more popular in the States,” says Laura. “They are actually magnetic, and they work by just heating up the pan itself. No wasted energy that would otherwise lose heat from around the side, something that is particularly common in older cooktops when using smaller pots and pans.”
Lighting is another element that’s been transformed in the past few years. “LED lighting isn’t just for can lights, we’re integrating it into under cabinet lighting as well as strip lighting within the cabinets themselves,” shares Laura. “In fact, the small size of the LED lights let you do some creative and fun things that weren’t possible with incandescent bulbs.”
Outside of the kitchen and bath, some of the greatest advances are effectively unseen. “One of the best ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your home is by properly insulating it,” says Laura. “Remodeling is a great opportunity to increase the amount of insulation in your home since you’ll likely have the walls opened up for electrical and plumbing anyhow. To really improve your home’s energy efficiency, you may even want to increase the amount of insulation in your attic. Take advantage of the unique access to your walls and attic to make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.”
Today’s exterior doors and windows are almost always going to do a better job at keeping drafts at bay than older models, and a new furnace or air conditioner will also operate at levels of efficiency that were not possible from your existing units.
Integrating choices that are smart for the planet have never been easier, in fact many of these options are almost a given these days. Talk with Laura about some more of the unseen ways you can make your house more environmentally friendly when you remodel, or follow us on Facebook or Instagram to find even more tips for your home.